Draft week finally has arrived. Which means that, eventually, the only remaining question regarding the process will be when does Michael Sam get picked?
Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel suggests, based on a poll of unnamed scouts, that Sam may not be picked at all.
“The reason you don’t hear much about Sam anymore a few days before the draft is this is the time for real players,” McGinn writes. “Based on discussions over the last month about Sam’s capability as a player with about two dozen NFL executives in personnel, he’s regarded almost as a non-entity.”
McGinn solicited opinions from 21 scouts. Three pegged Sam for the fifth round, three put him in the sixth round, and three projected the seventh round.
Five of the scouts said they would sign Sam as a free agent, while seven of the scouts said they wouldn’t sign Sam, even as an undrafted free agent.
While the assessments provided centered on football issues (including his status as a “tweener,” caught between defensive end in a 4-3 system and linebacker in a 3-4), the elephant in the room remains whether scouts’ opinions are affected by Sam’s decision to come out in February as openly gay. If no one drafts Sam, casual fans (and non-fans) of football will suspect homophobia, especially since Sam earned the title of 2013 defensive player of the year in the SEC, the closest thing the NFL currently has to a AAA minor league.
Of course, the 12 scouts who wouldn’t draft Sam won’t matter. As long as two or more teams would use a draft pick on Sam, someone will draft him.
And an owner of one or more teams will presumably get involved in the process at some pojnt, in the hopes of being the closest thing football could have to a Branch Rickey, the Dodgers G.M. who signed Jackie Robinson at a time when Major League Baseball was exclusively white.
Thus, regardless of the naysayers, someone will say “aye” to Sam, and he’ll get a chance to compete for a roster spot.
Ultimately, the team that drafts Sam will have to have a plan for proceeding if he doesn’t truly deserve one of the 53 jobs available in early September. Cut him, and questions will arise regarding whether he was rejected by teammates or coaches.
Thus, the team that drafts Sam may have to be prepared to keep him on the roster in order to avoid an unwanted spike in media attention as the first game of the season comes fully into focus.
Regardless, it will be a shock if Sam isn’t drafted.